Green’s MP Gareth Hughes explains the new US internet laws that have the likes of Wikipedia upset, and why we should care:
The Green Party is deeply concerned about the Stop Internet Piracy (SOPA) and PROTECT IP (PIPA) Acts currently causing quite a stir in the US and its impacts on New Zealanders access to a free and open Internet and online businesses.
Copyright is always a balance however these proposed laws give rights-holders exceptional and unprecedented powers.
These proposed draconian laws could see Kiwi websites blocked from the US and effectively the world by blocking search engines and other websites from linking as well as terminating online payment based on allegations requiring costly litigation to remedy. Imagine a small Kiwi online business blocked from Google searches, running online advertising or even processing VISA transactions or even losing their domain name because of a US copyright allegation that they can’t afford to challenge in a US court.
“SOPA would also expand the definition of copyright infringement to include hosting a single link to a site that is alleged to contain infringing material. Thus, if an author’s blog, or a book discussion group, attracts a single post that contains a single link that goes to a site that someone accuses of copyright infringement, that site becomes one with the alleged infringer, and faces all the same sanctions—without any proof required, or due process,” writes tech expert Cory Doctorow.
It will create tremendous fear and uncertainty online and will likely stifle innovation harming business opportunities in New Zealand and internationally. eWeek puts it succinctly “The language of SOPA is so broad, the rules so unconnected to the reality of Internet technology and the penalties so disconnected from the alleged crimes that this bill could effectively kill e-commerce or even normal Internet use.
Given the importance of the Internet to our daily lives, we should be concerned, even at the bottom of the South Pacific of the impact of this US legislation. The Green Party agrees with Internet NZ and would like to see the New Zealand Government to express concern through diplomatic channels.
It’s another example, like we saw in New Zealand over the Skynet copyright debate, that law-makers are legislating something they just don’t ‘get’ spurred on by corporate lobbyists intent on preserving old-fashioned business models.
It’s heartening to see a massive and diverse coalition mobilised to stop it, including a number of previous supporters including Sony, Electronic Arts, Nintendo, tech giants, like Google, have removed support and The White House sent a strong message against certain aspects. On January 18 a number of websites will go dark in protest, including some of my favourites like Reddit and Boing Boing. Overnight Congress decided to postpone a vote on SOPA which some interpret as ‘indefinite shelving’ but it still remains and PIPA is still live in the Senate. The day still it’s a big win for the opposition movement and will galvanise them..
Like Skynet, this law will be easily circumvented by those in the ‘know’ and won’t even solve the problem. As research from Germany shows, increasing availability of digital content demonstrates one can combat internet piracy without huge costs, stifling innovation and infringing upon basic rights.
Time will tell if these laws pass or not but it’s vital the world still has access to a free and open Internet.